I did not summit Mount Rainier and yet this was perhaps the most gratifying climb I have experienced.
We began our summit bid from high camp at 1 A.M. Traversing a glacier by the light of my headlamp and a much brighter full moon I repeatedly sang the words to my favorite Matt Redman worship song:
The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes.
After ascending through boulders, volcanic scree and spectacular ice formations I finally arrived at the top of Disappointment Cleaver. I could clearly see the summit. But I was fatigued. The previous two days of carrying a 45 pound pack up 7000 vertical feet had taken its toll.
As our ten minute rest break in whipping, frigid winds came to a close I realized that if I pushed to the top there was a good chance that I would not make it safely back down. With a myriad of crevasses to cross (some traversed by aluminum ladders) and 60 mile per hour summit winds, Rainier is not a mountain to be taken lightly.
I thought to myself, “What in the world am I doing? I have a wife and children at home–beautiful Julie, Tabitha who is beginning her freshman year of high school while I am on the mountain and Elijah who would start kindergarten that very day. This is not worth the risk.” I began the descent.
In summary, my good friend, Steve Porter, made it to the top–he is a rock star. My long time climbing companion, Tom Patton, made it to High Camp–I am enormously proud of his accomplishment.
My new friend, Corey Easterday, became ill on the first day of the climb and was forced to return to Seattle–He learned one of the hardest lessons of mountaineering: climbing is filled with both great joys and deep disappointments.
The four of us together, with many sponsors who care deeply for children at risk, raised $20,000 for the Christian Children’s Home of Ohio.
And me, well I had one of the most important epiphanies of my mountaineering career . . . Its not the summit that matters most . . . it’s the people you love who are waiting for you to return home.